Making every final moment count

LIFE CHANGING: Hospice Waikato nurse educator Carron Robertson enjoys working hard to make families feel comfortable at the hospice.
LIFE CHANGING: Hospice Waikato nurse educator Carron Robertson enjoys working hard to make families feel comfortable at the hospice.

Carron Roberts has helped thousands of terminally ill people make every moment count, sometimes making their dreams come true, during their stay at Hospice Waikato.

The hospice works with patients and families and it's easy to see Roberts' passion for the organisation which she began working for in 2000.

Although the work can involve helping people through the final stages of life, Roberts compared her work to that of a midwife.

"A midwife's role is to bring new life into this world. I feel exactly the same at the other end of life. The way we exit life is also really important and how we do that and get it right for the patient and their family is to give them a good experience, if at all possible under the circumstances."

The Nurse Educator at Hospice Waikato can still recall fondly the many patients who touched her life.

Roberts recalls a time where she had to go from nurse to wedding planner to ensure a patient could marry her partner of 40 years before she died.

"In a space of three hours we found someone to perform the service at the hospital and were able to fast track the paperwork through the courts and she was married that afternoon," Roberts said.

The registered nurse said the most common misconception people had about the hospice was that it was a place people went to die.

"Some think it's all doom and gloom. It is far from that. Obviously we care for the medical needs of our patients . . . but the halls are filled with laughter, music, and children playing while they are visiting.

"It's not a dark gloomy place to be. Dealing with death is only a small part of our role."

Asked what it was like to know that the patient who came into their care would die, Roberts said the focus was not on death but on "making every breath count".

"I remember one man who was at the end stage of life and had mobility issues, all he wanted to do was go for one last ride on his Harley [motorbike] and we made that happen. We focus on being alive and it really is making every moment count."

Her move to the nurse educator role has meant the "patient orientated" nurse is now organising, planning and training staff and volunteers that work for the hospice.

She loves her role in training staff in palliative care and still manages to see a few patients every week. "The moment I started there [the hospice] I knew I was going to stay. It felt right," she said.

"The reward for me is making a difference and that could be the tiniest thing, but could mean everything to a patient and the family's experience. That's what drives me."

Roberts said the hospice, which is 70 per cent funded by the Waikato District Health Board, belonged to the community.

"I think what's important about not being funded 100 per cent by the Government, is that the rest of the funds come from the public so it belongs to the community. I feel good when I go out visiting patients and groups and telling people, this place belongs to you, you raised the money to make this happen."

Hospice Waikato operates out of its hub the Gallagher Family Hospice on Cobham Drive, Hamilton.

Hospice services are for patients with any advanced, progressive and life-limiting disease that require the services of a specialist palliative care team to assist in management of care and to support the people who care for them.

They provide services to anyone who needs them across the Waikato, King Country and Thames-Coromandel, mirroring the region also covered by the Waikato District Health Board.